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Technology has undergone a sea change over the last few decades and its adoption has also increased rapidly as the reliance on IT in everyday activities has surged. IT is a basic resource for individuals, governments and companies alike in today’s times, as it has transformed lives, and has become the basis of any information and communication system. IT is rapidly changing the delivery mechanism of governments, companies and citizens and its products and services have evolved from the rapid changes in our economic and social activities. Today, information technology or IT as it is commonly known has become an integral part of overall industrial development. Some of the important functions of IT are data collection, data input, storage, information processing, communications, data output and presentation among others.

Customers are looking at technology to get more value from the IT infrastructure and investments. Business leaders and technology leaders understand that innovation and collaboration is the only way to create sustainable competitive advantage in a world of relentless change and rising global competition.

Role of SMEs

During the last few decades, rapid changes have been witnessed globally in social, political and economic circles. Postglobalisation there has been a rapid growth in cross-border business activities that have benefitted SMEs and helped them move up their value chain. Furthermore, globalisation has facilitated knowledge sharing, business opportunities, innovation and research and development, besides lowering costs and distributing costs for SMEs.

According to UNIDO, SMEs around the world are estimated to account for almost over 90% of all enterprises, and for 50-60% of total employment in the world. Likewise, in India, SMEs contribute immensely towards overall economic development. MSMEs account for nearly 45% of India’s manufacturing output; around 40% of total exports and most importantly, they provide employment opportunities to around 41 million people. There are around 13 million SMEs that operate in the country, and these SMEs are the driving force for the long-term growth of the Indian economy.

SMEs and IT

SMEs mobilise scarce resources and cater to the needs of the fragmented domestic market. Thus, SMEs are one of the most important sectors for any nation. They not only contribute significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP), but also create employment and earn foreign currency through exports.

Usage of outdated technologies is one of the most poignant challenges that the Indian SMEs witness in today’s times. The SMEs have been facing tough competition from emerging economies on this front, and going forward, the situation may worsen further. Competition is intensifying, as borders are fading, free trade is widening and tariff barriers are phasing out. Though the changes in the international economic scenario have brought in new challenges for the SMEs, they have also opened up tremendous business opportunities for them.

Technology is one of the main factors that influences the success or failure of an enterprise. Technology can enable an enterprise to reduce cost of production, maintain consistency in quality, improve productivity and develop competitiveness. SMEs currently lack the time, resources and in-house staff to keep pace with changing technology. Thus, IT vendors can find immense untapped potential to earn revenue in SMEs. Information and communication technologies (ICT) offer enormous potential for SMEs in terms of efficiency and market. ICT can substantially reduce costs, improve supply chain capabilities and therefore improve business processes. The electronic B2B communication solutions allow the SMEs to bridge the gap between buyers and sellers and build close relationships among trading partners.

The changes in technology have given rise to new challenges for SMEs, as there has been only limited adoption of new technologies in these enterprises; thus, technology leaders are increasingly innovating the product and service offerings. In the section that follows, we highlight the various IT initiatives undertaken by IBM to promote SMEs.

IBM SME Initiatives – Overview

IBM is the only IT company that offer end-to-end solutions to its clients, which include everything from hardware to software and from services to consulting.

IBM has been playing an imperative role in the development of the SME sector by designing and developing solutions – products and services – customised as per SMEs’ needs. One such initiative that IBM has taken for SMEs is Express Advantage. IBM’s Express portfolio comprises of hardware, software, services, solutions and financing and is designed to meet specific needs of SMEs. The offerings are broadly categorised as point product, infrastructure solutions and business solutions. The Express Advantage product portfolio of IBM addresses security, business recovery, employee collaboration and energy efficiency needs of mid-sized businesses.

IBM Smart Business

Additionally, IBM has also launched another initiative for SMBs - IBM Smart Business - a breakthrough way for growing organisations like yours to acquire, use and manage technology that is radically simple. Because the applications and the technology to support them are backed by IBM and our Partners, and since they literally maintain themselves, there is zero IT complexity associated with these solutions.

IBM Smart Business is IBM’s next-generation integrated IT platform that delivers pre-loaded and pre-integrated applications with IBM software. IBM Smart Business solutions are business-driven and workload-centric cloud solutions. IBM developed Smart Business in close collaboration with independent software vendors (ISVs) who provide solutions for mid-market companies.

IBM Smart Business offers a web-based IT solutions marketplace that facilitates businesses enterprises to find vendors for business intelligence, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), human resource management, hospital management, learning management, database management, document management, collaboration and supply chain management.

IBM Smart Business does compete in a crowded marketplace and many of the players have picked up on the 'simplicity' theme.
Our offering will distinguish itself on three fronts:

Key features of IBM Smart Business

IBM Smart Business solutions are designed to improve agility, reduce costs, and enhance user experience. The IBM Smart Business cloud portfolio helps clients turn complex business processes into simple services. IBM Smart Business brings in sophisticated automation technology and self-service to specific digital tasks as diverse as software development and testing, desktop and device management, and collaboration.

Everything works together from day one

The Smart Cubes for ISV Applications are plug and play application ready platforms that require only four easy steps to get the system up and running. Instead of days or weeks of training followed by reading through hundreds of pages of manuals and then spending hours installing the operating system, middleware, security and application software, each Smart Cube’s pre-loaded software stack includes the specific set of integrated software components that are necessary to get the business application online and in production quickly.

Near Effortless Management and Support

The IBM Smart Cube can eliminate IT complexity and is very user-friendly, as well as easy to manage. The customers can automatically download their software (IBM Smart Business Solution), with key updates, fixes and new releases from the IBM Smart Market to the Smart Desk console and it is easily manageable with minimal IT skills. Common tasks like updating software, monitoring the health of the components or adding users to applications are automatically performed or can be completed in seconds. Moreover, as IBM is the single point of contact for everything including business applications, end-users can focus on what matters most, their business.

IBM Global Financing: Install now, pay later

The new customers can also avail financing options from IBM Global Finance. Customers can buy IBM Smart Business solution in easy installments, which enables them to derive benefits immediately on installation.